MARIETTA, Ga. — Darlington Nagbe’s adjustment to life with Atlanta United has appeared to be a relatively easy one so far. After a blockbuster move from the Portland Timbers to Atlanta last December, the midfielder has settled in well with his new club, starting all six games so far and going the full 90 in the last five.
And he's already considered a key member of the team.
Teammate Greg Garza had nothing but praise for Nagbe when speaking with media members on Wednesday.
“I’ve said this from the moment he got here: He’s probably the fastest ‘first two steps’ player I’ve ever seen play the game," he said. "He’s able to juke a player with the movement of his body before he gets the ball. He brings so much to us. Coming to a new place is obviously not the easiest thing, but I think he’s done very well.”
Nagbe’s play has been impressive when one considers the difference in tactics between his former and current club and how seamless the transition appears on the field. In Portland, he had more freedom to attack, as he often played alongside two defensive midfielders. In Atlanta however, Nagbe is asked to sit back more often, press the opposing backline when given the opportunity, and still attempt to find Atlanta’s pacy attackers on a counter.
Earlier in the month, Nagbe was quick to let the media know that although it may seem to be simple for him at this point, it’s taken quite a while to get used to Atlanta’s pressing style.
“The way that we play, being on the ball and wanting to be on the front foot the whole time and play attacking soccer, it’s been great," Nagbe said. "I think initially I was just a little hesitant to go right for it and start pressing, but Gerardo [Martino, Atlanta's head coach], the coaching staff and my teammates have done a good job with me and have gotten me more accustomed to it.”
The Atlanta fanbase has already shown an early appreciation for Nagbe. Hundreds of supporters attended his introductory press conference in December to receive an autograph, photo, or simply a handshake. Most recently, Nagbe was featured on a Black Panther-themed tifo revealed by Atlanta’s supporter section before their April 7 match against LAFC.
“I didn’t know it was me until after the game when I saw the ‘6’ on there,” Nagbe said. “I thought that was pretty cool.”